Vol 67, No 3 (2016)
Original article
Published online: 2016-09-27

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The metabolic syndrome among Danish seafarers: a follow-up study

Jørgen Riis Jepsen, Hanna B. Rasmussen
Pubmed: 27681211
IMH 2016;67(3):129-136.


Background: The metabolic syndrome (MS) represents a cluster of risk factors related to insulin resistance. Metabolic syndrome is a strong risk factor for chronic metabolic and cardiovascular diseases and is related to nutritional factors, sleep patterns, work-related stress, fatigue, and physical activity — all of which are critical issues at sea. We have previously demonstrated a MS prevalence of 24.2% in Danish seafarers. This study aimed to follow the trend of MS after 2 years’ intervention.

Materials and methods: Out of 524 Danish seafarers (mean age 37.7 years) who underwent medical fit-for-duty examination by seamen’s doctors at baseline, 141 seafarers (mean age 41.3 years) were tracked and re-examined after 2 years. At baseline all participants received general advice regarding lifestyle issues. Seafarers with MS were additionally given specific advice regarding treatment. The seafarers provided questionnaire information about their workplace on board, about treatment of hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, and about previously diagnosed type 2-diabetes. In order to define MS, we collected data about waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, and fasting plasma glucose.

Results: Out of 35 (26.5%) seafarers who fulfilled the criteria for MS at follow-up, 18 had MS at baseline while 9 were incident cases. Two seafarers with MS at baseline ceased to qualify for this condition at follow-up. The prevalence of seafarers with MS at follow-up represents a minimal estimate because a proportion could not be assessed due to missing fasting blood tests. Smoking and alcohol consumption was not reduced.

Conclusions: In spite of the intervention, the prevalence of MS increased in this group of seafarers. This study indicates the limitations of individual health promotion and the need for corporate actions.

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